Even though it has official successors by way of the Game Boy SP and Game Boy Advance, no other handheld console hits you with nostalgia quite like the original Game Boy. Released in 1989 by Nintendo, this chunky block was what you brought around in the 90s whenever you were forced to go outside without some form of entertainment (the pain!).
Thirty years have passed since the first Game Boy, so it only made sense for industrial designer and Nintendo fan YJ Yoon to give the beloved Game Boy a much-needed retro-inspired makeover. The Nintendo Flex, as he likes to call his makeover concept, takes modern advancements in gaming technology and incorporates them into the classic Game Boy industrial design and user experience.
As to be expected, what was once a bulky handheld console now has a thinner, sleeker look. You’ll notice the Flex’s body curves towards the user, making it easier to grip the console. This curved design combined with a bigger screen allows a user to focus less on outside distractions and more on the game being played.
The buttons have slightly been altered as well. Instead of the painful plastic arrow buttons on the left-hand side, a smooth depressed wheel lets players navigate menus and control their characters.
The other half of the user interface, the A and B buttons, remain largely the same with the only difference being they are now two different ends of a single button. Since players frequently shift between the two buttons so often, this streamlines the process and helps them navigate the Nintendo Flex without having to look at the physical console.
The top half of the Nintendo Flex has had some work done to separate it from its 1989 counterpart. The power button is now located on top of the console and locks the game cartridge in place, preventing accidental removals from your younger siblings. According to YJ Yoon, the aim was to hide the power switch whenever a game was inserted into the console, making gameplay more immersive.
The bottom half of the console has seen some work as well. Linear pattern textures have been applied to the lower half side of the Flex which helps you get a better grip with your sweaty palms. This lower end is where you would typically find the speaker on the original Game Boy, but due to the palms covering the sound during gameplay, it has been moved to the top of the Nintendo Flex instead.
There isn’t much use for the Nintendo Flex with mobile phones and the Nintendo Switch controlling the market for handheld gaming, but it doesn’t hurt to wonder what could have been if Nintendo stuck with its classic console. Find more on Yoon’s design process for this experimental product over on his Behance page.